Social-emotional learning is a methodology that helps students better feel their emotions, understand why they’re feeling them, and demonstrate empathy toward others. This type of learning can help students become more self-aware and create a safer, more inclusive classroom.
SEL instruction has become more common due to the benefits it offers students, such as improved academic performance and behavior. In the 2021-2022 school year, 76% of principals and 53% of teachers reported using an SEL program or materials in their school.
Alongside academic demands, students must learn various social and life skills to become successful contributors to society. Although SEL isn’t a defined subject, such as social studies or math, educators can specialize in SEL and incorporate related concepts or activities into their curriculum to help students gain these valuable skills.
An SEL teacher is a student-facing, classroom management role that works in a variety of pre-K-12 school settings. SEL teachers may lead their own classes, work in small groups, or assist individual students by integrating SEL themes into their overall teaching style.
For example, teachers may assign tasks, such as journaling, open-ended projects, or role-playing assignments, that focus on student creativity and self-expression. Other educators may use evidence-based instructional materials or resources that teach their students social, emotional, and cognitive skills.
SEL teachers may also work with students with identified behavioral, mental health, social, or emotional needs, as well as students with individualized education plans.
Regardless of the educational setting, SEL teachers typically have a good grasp of their own social or emotional competencies and understand the importance of SEL methodology to ensure students receive a quality education.
SEL teachers are primarily responsible for teaching academic and SEL lessons to students through various instruction methods while being flexible for those who may need extra help grasping these concepts.
Typical duties of an SEL teacher may include:
SEL teacher responsibilities can vary depending on the type of school they teach at and grade level they specialize in. Teachers may also have students who experience difficulty understanding SEL concepts and require remedial help.
An effective SEL teacher is:
A bachelor’s degree in education or a related field is needed to become an SEL teacher. Since SEL has become increasingly popular over the past few decades, many universities now offer a master’s program or specialization in SEL that can be obtained after 30 to 36 credit hours. Students enrolled full-time usually complete an advanced degree in about 2 years.
While teaching experience isn’t always a hard requirement, having it on a resume can help SEL teachers stand out when applying for jobs. The level of experience and education needed can also vary depending on the school and grade level being taught.
The average salary for an SEL teacher varies widely depending on state, skill level, and professional experience. It can also fluctuate based on the degree an applicant holds, the school they work for, and grade level they teach. According to ZipRecruiter, most SEL teachers earn between $41,500 and $60,000 a year. Compensation may also be paid hourly, with the national average for SEL teachers falling between $25 to $28 per hour.
Here’s a snapshot of the current average annual salaries for SEL teachers:
As more schools incorporate SEL into their curriculum, the demand for SEL teachers is expected to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have data specific to SEL teachers, but job outlook for overall employment in education, training, and library occupations is expected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031.
However, that statistic fluctuates depending on whether an educator teaches high school, middle school, or kindergarten and elementary school. According to data from BLS, employment in these grade levels is projected to increase by the following percentages:
SEL is a relatively new field that emerged in the United States in the mid-1990s. The rise in popularity has led to a demand for more teachers trained in SEL instruction, but it’s also led to more competition within the field. Pursuing professional development opportunities can help SEL teachers stay competitive.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, SEL teachers may go on to pursue an advanced degree to acquire further training or skills in the field. An advanced degree combined with teaching experience can make educators more competitive when searching for a job.
Some schools also offer their teachers stipends for personal professional development opportunities, such as courses or certifications. Depending on an educator’s career goals, publishing original research or studies in SEL can also open more employment opportunities and solidify them as an industry expert.
Several professional associations provide resources and support for SEL teachers: